Listening is Hard

During a recent client faculty meeting, we continued our discussion on the Power of Teacher language (from Responsive Classroom). One focus was on Active Listening. You may be surprised in a Book Study of language that the idea of listening comes up in every chapter. Active Listening defined by The MINDUP Curriculum:

 “Being able to listen in a focused way to what others say and to hone in on details such as tone and inflection gives a listener a clearer notion about the meaning of the words and a better idea for how to respond. This work helps prepare students for 

  • Following directions
  • Resolving conflicts through discussion
  • Building friendships
  • Listening critically to 
    • News
    • Ads
    • Other media messages”

Listening is hard because we have to set aside our own agenda to give someone else our full attention. We see this in the classroom when students pop up their hands to ask a question before the teacher has not even finished giving the directions. I tell students when I see this that their hand has turned off their ears. They are no longer listening but preparing what they want to say. Hands down, Ears open!

Adults and teachers are not immune to this habit. It takes a real effort to focus on the speaker and not prepare our responses instead. We discussed taking wait time to reflect on what was said and respond. Even just a few seconds of reflection will allow the listener to really “hear” what was said, not just the words but the meaning behind the words. Wait time is not just to give students time to process.

Listening at this point in the school year may be even harder than earlier in the year. We feel we know our students and therefore can anticipate their responses. As an administrator and consultant, I feel that way in conversations with my faculty or clients. When we feel this way, it is even more important to wait to respond. The actual statement/question being addressed to us may not be what we anticipate. And answering or giving a response that does not fit can lead to awkwardness but could lead to miscommunication.

Give it a try. Wait a beat or two next time you and your students are conversing. Maybe say, ‘give me a second while I think about what you said.’ Try it with your family. Let me know how active listening changes the dynamic of the conversation. swladis@edtechease or @edtechease on Instagram and Twitter

Looking to do a Book Study with your faculty this summer? Let’s talk about the option for a virtual book study.  Reach out via email me, Or connect with me on Twitter/Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook ( We can also talk about other ways I can support your teachers.

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